Despite being rife with infighting and turmoil, the Buffalo School Board has found plenty of interested candidates willing to join.
Sixteen applicants have thrown hats into the ring to replace ousted Board Member Carl P. Paladino — in a search process that began Wednesday at City Hall with the first round of public interviews for those seeking the vacant Park District seat.
Candidates include two former School Board members — Louis Petrucci and Donald Van Every — as well as Paladino's opponent in the last election, Austin Harig.
Sixteen candidates is a lot — considering that a total of 12 people ran for six board seats last year — and a bit surprising.
"I did not anticipate there would be so much interest," said Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, the School Board president.
Nevergold acknowledged that the turbulence on the board in recent years has probably heightened public interest. And while the school district has had some major problems, Nevergold expects candidates want to be part of the advancements and improvements also starting to take place across the district.
"A lot of positive things are happening and this is a good time to be part of that momentum," Nevergold said.
But still clouding the replacement process is a court appeal Paladino is expected to file.
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia removed Paladino from the School Board last month for publicly disclosing private information from a School Board executive session — which happened in the wake of his inflammatory comments about former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.
An appeal has not yet been filed, but Paladino's legal team said Wednesday it is drafting the legal documents.
"At this point we're following the process we have to follow," Nevergold said. "Whatever Mr. Paladino does is up to him and for the courts to decide, but we have a tight 30-day window."
The board has 30 days to appoint a new representative for the Park District, which encompasses South Buffalo, according to state law. The replacement must be from the Park District and be approved by a majority of the remaining eight members on the board.
Besides being a resident of the Park District for a year, applicants must be a resident of Buffalo for at least three years. He or she also must be a U.S. citizen and have no felony convictions.
Nevergold — who went through the interview process herself in 2012 to fill a vacated seat — is personally looking for someone who can work "collaboratively" and "cohesively" with the rest of the board. She also wants someone who understands that the position involves more than attending two board meetings a month and that it requires significant time and attention.
The board has until Sept. 15 to choose Paladino's replacement.
If the board does not fill the seat within the 30-day time frame, Mayor Byron W. Brown has the authority to select a replacement, with confirmation from the Common Council.
Interviews are expected to continue Thursday and Monday, at which point the board is expected to vote, Nevergold said.
Nineteen people submitted applications before the Sept. 1 deadline, but 18 met the qualifications, according to a list of candidates obtained by The Buffalo News.
Two withdrew their names, bringing the total number to 16.
The sixteen candidates, in alphabetical order, are:
- Kevin Becker
- Adam Bojak
- Kevin Buczak
- Rachel Casey
- Cate Flanagan
- Austin Harig
- Timothy Hartigan
- Kevin Lafferty
- Carolette Meadows
- Daniel O'Sullivan
- Louis Petrucci
- Patrick Phelan
- Christopher Stadler
- Lisa Truilizio
- Donald Van Every
- Edwin Williams